Al Ries

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Every time I drive by an Arby's—which have been around since 1964—and see the whimsical sign with the giant cowboy hat, I chuckle. I imagine a hot roast beef sandwich, and it makes me hungry.

Same thing with Wendy's, which opened in 1969. The sign says to me, "Stop here for a great breakfast or juicy, old-fashioned burger!"

Though only a sometimes customer, over the years both of these organizations have created positive brand awareness in my head.

So when I received the e-mail from KCSA Strategic Communications announcing a "new brand identity" for Wendy's/Arby's, I was curious. After all, the old brands were real good.

Here's how the "new brand identity" is described:

"The Wendy's/Arby's Group brand identity is designed not only as an acronym, but as a spiral continuum, maintaining the idea of continuous, flexible movement forward," said Margaret Wiatrowski, creative director, KCSA Strategic Communications. "The overall visual direction remains neutral by introducing entirely new elements to the combined entity, both formalistically and typographically. The two entities are symbolically combined through a mutual sense of innovation, authenticity and tradition."

Huh?

The idea that advertising agencies are recommending campaigns based on humor—and marketers are going along with it—is an act of desperation. At the end of this issue is an illustration from an upcoming Campbell’s Soup commercial that urges consumers to “Make some holiday magic.” It depicts the branch of an evergreen tree reaching through an open window and grabbing some green bean casserole. The viewer will think, “My isn’t that cute and clever,” and remember the gag, but not the Campbell Soup. Be well-mannered, but don’t be a clown. People don’t buy from bad-mannered salesmen, and research has shown that they don’t buy from

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